Teenage weightlifter Zoe Smith is Britain’s strongest girl
Zoe Smith has lifted three times her own body weight to rise to the top of her sport.
The schoolgirl set 98 British records last year and has her sights set on competing at the London Olympics in 2012.
And she has now been voted “Athlete of the Year” in her sport by the British Olympic Association.
The title is usually reserved for Olympic medallists, but she was handed the award after taking gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India.
It ranks her alongside Sir Chris Hoy, the newly knighted triple Olympic cycling champion, and Andy Murray, Britain’s top tennis player, who have both received the award in their sports.
Zoe, from Abbey Wood, in south east London, said: “To say I was shocked is a bit of an understatement.
“Seeing my name on a list as an equal alongside all the big names from this year’s Olympics was unbelievable.
“At first I thought there might have been some mistake and was a bit nervous about telling anyone so I was amazingly happy when it sunk in that it was true.”
Zoe, a former gymnast, first started weightlifting at the age of 12 after she was asked to make up the numbers in a weightlifting team for London Youth Games.
Too young to participate because the coaches did not realise she was only 12, Zoe was taken under the wing of her trainer Andy Callard at the Europa Gymnastics Centre, where she continued her development, training for eight hours a week.
And since turning 13, she has systematically smashed nearly every national record there is.
Going onto to break 98 British records in 2008, Zoe became the youngest ever holder of senior British weightlifting records. She now holds every record, bar one, in the 53kg weight category from senior down to under 14 level. Days after her 13th birthday, she lifted 59kg to break the under18 snatch record set 11 years previously by Michaela Breeze, Britain’s most successful female weightlifter.
Zoe, who was made a “sports ambassador” for Greenwich Council’s Olympic Unit, has now set her sights on gaining an Olympic gold in 2012.
She added: “Going to Beijing and actually watching a couple of Olympic weightlifting competitions and seeing the atmosphere and excitement of the home crowd cheering on their lifters has made me more determined than ever to try to make it to the 2012 Games in my own city.
“Just being selected would be a dream come true and of course the ultimate aim for anyone would be to win the gold medal.” (The Telegraph)